What’s the big deal with bacteria anyway? Why devote time and energy to figuring out what they are and how they function? Evidence is mounting that bacteria are integral to our survival and the survival of plants and animals all over the world. In some cases, microbes might be a missing link in promoting health and overcoming disease.
Endophytes (microbes that are found within plant tissues) have been found in every single plant that has ever been tested. It is unlikely that a plant could survive in the wild without microbes. They help with defense against predators, tolerance to drought, salt, heat, poor soil, and polluted soil. They also help provide the plant with growth hormones, increase biomass, improve the ability of plants to remove contaminants from soil, fix nitrogen, and help plants to avoid disease.
The plant microbiome doesn’t seem to be so different from the human microbiome, at least in form and function, and possibly even in composition to some degree.
Much of the existing and emerging research suggests that gut microbes confer some of the same benefits to humans as plant microbes do to their hosts. Things like nutrient metabolism, pathogen resistance, growth, and cellular function all seem to be affected by the composition of our gut microbiome. If thrown off-kilter, microbial communities can also have detrimental effects on our health.
How cool is that?
There is just something so incredible about the idea that there are entire populations of living organisms that reside within our bodies that can dramatically impact our health and well-being. This area is worthy of further exploration, and I am so excited to continue to delve into the depths of research on plant and human gut microbiomes.